Public will have input on plan

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 8, 2005

WOODLAND – Discussion over a proposed housing complex in Woodland kicked off with much emotion after the issue was un-tabled during Thursday night’s Town Board meeting.

Following an unsuccessful attempt last month during a special called meeting to secure a date for a public hearing, citizens will have an opportunity to officially respond to the proposal that seems to have stirred much controversy.

That public hearing is scheduled to take place 6 p.m. at the Woodland Town Hall, Monday, January 17.

Although it appeared that the motion to hold the public hearing, made by Councilwoman Thomasena Boone, was going to die for lack of a second,

it eventually received a second.

Woodland Mayor Margaret Burgwyn twice asked whether a member of council was going to second the motion, a request that was met with silence both times until each member was called out individually and asked for their response.

Councilman Les Clark ultimately seconded the motion and cited his belief in the democratic process of allowing the people to have a voice as his reason for doing so.

Prior to council’s decision to support the motion, Anthony Clark of Uhuru Community Development Corporation asked council to give consideration to his organization’s proposed subdivision for Hazel Street/Loblolly Street, stating that he had submitted an application for a capacity grant to help with funding.

However, his presentation sparked discussion when citizens probed for more specific information, including the price of the lots prior to development, the ultimate owner of the improved properties, the length of time Uhuru would likely have the property without paying taxes and how the town would benefit.

Several citizens questioned the affordability of the homes, which had a projected base price of $85,000 asking how the targeted individuals/families with incomes between $15,000 and $45,000 could afford such a home.

&uot;We wouldn’t have had the house we have without help because we couldn’t have afforded it and you’re saying that that’s an affordable price for low income families? That’s ridiculous,&uot; said one citizen.

Overall, Uhuru desires to build approximately 41 low to mid-income residences should the town agree to partner with the organization on the project.

Anthony Clark defended his position, stating he was in compliance with the zoning parameters and that the development would create jobs in the community.

Another citizen asked whether there was ever official action taken by the board to place Woodland’s name on the pre-application submitted by Clark by which he secured $75,000 in initial funds for the project, but the question was never answered in the meeting.

Clark submitted that it was standard procedure, according to the Division of Community Assistance, to have the town act as administrator of the funding, hence the reason for having the town agree to partner with his organization on the project.

&uot;A lot of questions that people are asking right now are inappropriate and out of sequence,&uot; said Clark. &uot;You must allow the process to take its course.&uot;

According to the minutes, Clark first approached the board with the idea for the development in September, but no formal action was ever taken giving him permission to use the town’s name on the application for funding. However, Mayor Burgwyn stated that it was not necessary. &uot;The council didn’t vote on it, but we gave him the go ahead to get the initial loan of $75,000,&uot; she said.

When asked what Clark’s intentions were with the land should he not be able to develop it in the manner he wished, he stated that the option to sell the land still existed.

In response to citizens’ question over why administrative costs for training future employees was estimated at $100,000, Clark cited travel expenses for extended out of state conferences/training seminars; an answer received with much scoffing.

Frustrated, Uhuru associate Robert Rice stood and addressed the gathering, setting himself on the same plane as his taxpaying neighbors stating, &uot;All we ask is for you to treat us like you treat everyone else. We’re not asking for anymore. We shouldn’t be crucified for trying to help the town and though you may not see it that way, we do.&uot;

During the public comment section of the meeting, which took place before the discussion, Woodland resident Joseph &uot;Joe&uot; Blythe presented the second wave of signatures of residents against the subdivision.

&uot;I have talked with many people and all of them are opposed to this housing development,&uot; Blythe said, adding a charge to the council. &uot;We elect you to represent the town of Woodland and look out for our citizens by making decisions that benefit the town, not lowering the standards you have already set, so I hope you take that into consideration when you make your final decision.&uot;

Burgwyn ended the discussion stating that ultimately, the decision would be up to the town.

Should the proposed project receive approval following the public hearing on January 17, Uhuru will be cleared to proceed with the submission of its capacity grant application.